“Crazy” remains one of those terms directed almost exclusively toward women. While men can be “passionate,” “hardheaded” or “angry,” none of those are quite the same brilliant catch-all — able to both stop a conversation in its tracks and sum up everything that’s wrong with someone. (As in, “[Ex-girlfriend’s name] just turned crazy and we broke up. I dunno.” It just happened.)
“Crazy” does more than say, “We weren’t compatible,” or “I didn’t agree with her,” though. It implies an inability to reason, a value that practically forms the bedrock of our entire culture. Women are also generally considered to be “emotional.” Emotion is unreasonable. So, by the transitive property, women are unreasonable, and there’s no need to listen to unreasonable people. Bitches be crazy!
As ridiculous as it sounds to lay it all out like that, we seem far too comfortable dismissing people, specifically female people, this very way. Here’s why you may want to think twice before using the c-word. (Not that one.)
It’s not “crazy” if she responds to your encouraging messages.
In a 2012 column on XOJane, one delusional Anonymous Single Guy wrote about his experiences dipping a toe back into the dating pool, including the time he (gasp!) slept with “a crazy woman.” And yet the main crime of “Crazy D,” the author’s helpful nickname for the allegedly insane, seemed to be that she’d responded positively to Anonymous’ words and actions, Jezebel’s Jenna Sauers pointed out.
“[Anonymous] seems to have passed thirty years on this earth,” Sauers wrote, “without noticing that when you decide to sleep with someone — especially someone you know for a fact likes you — and then tell them equivocal things about how ‘great’ your date was, it’s not inconceivable that that person could get the idea that you might like them.”
Invalidating someone’s “crazy” feelings because they make you uncomfortable is a dick move.
“It’s the all-purpose argument ender,” wrote Harris O’Malley in The Washington Post. “Your girlfriend is upset that you didn’t call when you were going to be late? She’s being irrational. She wants you to spend time with her instead of out with the guys again? She’s being clingy.” Regardless of whatever she might have to say to bolster her point, “crazy” calls into question her very ability to make rational judgments, thus silencing her. It’s also a very easy way to excuse men “from having to take responsibility for how we make others feel,” as O’Malley wrote.
How does a person respond to being called “crazy”? Nothing seems more futile than the proclamation “I’m not crazy!” (That’s just what a crazy person would say, right?) But as others have pointed out, making someone doubt their own sanity is called “gaslighting.” It’s generally considered abuse.
Women may not even be more emotional (that is, “crazy”) than men, according to science.
Many studies have examined gender difference and emotion. One tested 1,000 unmarried young adults, concluding that the stress of relationships weighed more heavily on guys’ mental health. Another showed that while women were more expressive than men, they didn’t feel more emotion. One more revealed a sample of fathers to have stronger emotional reactions to “heartwarming material” than mothers, when hooked up to monitors.
As longtime emotion and gender researcher Stephanie Shields told Refinery29: “There is no science that shows women have stronger or more out-of-control feelings than men. In fact, lab research on emotion regulation shows that women tend to be better at it.”
Medicine has unfairly called women “crazy” for a VERY long time.
From Plato’s “wandering womb” theory — postulating that angry lady parts wander around the body, causing a number of health issues — to the idea that too few orgasms lead to hysteria, the healthcare field hasn’t always been super kind to women. Today, one in four American women take medication for mental health issues, according to a 2011 report. Is that because women are simply more likely to seek help for mental health — and to seek it earlier? Or because doctors overprescribe drugs to women? Orbecause, as The Guardian’s Victoria Bekiempis suggests, women are more likely to be victims of rape, and the depression and post-traumatic stress that often follows rape? It’s unclear.
Men suffer from mental health issues too, albeit in different ways. Throwing around “crazy” like it doesn’t connote actual mental instability only helps stigmatize everyone with real mental health issues.
We still love listening to our favorite “crazy” lady entertainers.
Taylor Swift gets accused on the regular of embodying the crazy ex-girlfriend stereotype — even when she’s hyperaware of her image.